Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) may not be allowed to vote in the House, but she is still threatening to make life difficult for House Republicans if they keep trying to overturn Washington, D.C.’s locally passed laws, especially new laws that protect employee reproductive choice and the rights of LGBTQ student groups.
“I promise them this: I will force a floor vote on the reproductive health choice amendment that is already in the D.C. appropriation, and the amendment against use of our local funds for abortions for low-income women already in our appropriation,” Norton said at a press event Tuesday. “That, and I will force a vote on each and every attempt to overturn any D.C. local law when the D.C. appropriation goes to the floor.”
It’s a promise to embarrass GOP lawmakers, many of whom Norton bets would “rather not face volatile social issues as we enter into a presidential year.”
It’s also a gauntlet thrown in opposition to the political football that lawmakers have for decades played with low-income D.C. women by alternately imposing and lifting bans on D.C.’s ability to use its own money to fund abortions for women who can’t afford them. The current ban has been in place since 2011.
“Reproductive choice, where the overwhelming majority of Americans are with us? Want to attack that one? Go ahead,” Norton said. “LGBT discrimination? After Indiana? Try it out on the House floor.”
GOP legislators have for months been trying to overturn or de-fund D.C.’s new Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which passed the city council unanimously and prohibits employers from discriminating based on an employee’s reproductive health-care choices, such as using birth control or having an abortion.
Republicans also targeted a new D.C. law that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ student groups, but efforts to overturn that law haven’t yet gone as far.
It’s no accident that Congress and religious conservatives attacked both laws at the same time, said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“Our respective legal rights and destinies have long been intertwined through Supreme Court decisions going back over 40 years—the latest of which, of course, was last year’s Hobby Lobby ruling,” Carey said. “Opponents of equality … have used the decision as an inspiration again and again across the country to pass discriminatory laws using the guise of religious liberty.”
After an official resolution of disapproval of the reproductive health law passed the House but failed to see action in the Senate before a deadline, members of the House Appropriations Committee decided to use the budget to attack the law, a more common tactic for Congress to control how D.C. runs its local government.
“We will flood the press and social media in members’ states to let them know that instead of taking care of congressional business at home, members are busy meddling in the local affairs of another district in violation of a cardinal principle of their party … that local control must be respected against the big foot, as they call it, of the federal government,” Norton said.
Norton and Carey spoke with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America at an event hosted at Cork Market, a wine shop owned and operated by local D.C. business owner Khalid Pitts. Pitts spoke on behalf of more than 100 D.C. businesses that have signed a letter opposing Congress overturning the new law.
“Small business owners like myself strive to create a healthy workplace for their employees,” Pitts said. “The first way to do that is protecting their private health decisions.”